January 30, 2013

Swafford: Learn to clean your home using fewer chemicals

Spraying chemicals out of a spray bottle to clean the kitchen counter is a daily habit that we may not think about very often. But what exactly is in that bottle that makes your eyes water and tickles your throat as you wipe the counter off?

Conventional cleaners used to clean every room and surface in your home have many chemicals that can cause indoor air pollution problems, especially for those suffering with allergies and other respiratory issues.

Making the switch to cleaners with fewer chemicals, especially those labeled as eco-friendly, is a great way to foster a healthier indoor environment. An even better option, however, is to make your own green cleaning supplies with basic ingredients like baking soda, white vinegar, ammonia and borax. Making your own cleaning supplies is known as “green cleaning” because it’s healthier for you and the environment in general. And, as a bonus, it can potentially be cheaper than using store-brand cleaners.

With such basic ingredients, do these green cleaners really work? I use an all-purpose cleaner at home with no complaints. On occasion a little extra elbow grease is needed, but overall the cleaners work just as well as their smellier commercial counterparts. The ingredients seem really basic, but they are nonetheless effective, especially when combined in a spray bottle using the recipes below.

Vinegar helps deodorize, dissolve mineral deposits and grease. Vinegar is also as effective or nearly as effective as commercial cleaners in eliminating microbes. Baking soda neutralizes acid, deodorizes, and cleans and polishes aluminum, chrome and other surfaces. Borax, mixed with a little bit of plain soap and water, is effective for removing dirt and soil from surfaces. And, to my surprise, it’s also good at removing mold from walls.

To make your own green cleaners you’ll need a couple of spray bottles and a marker or some sort of label to identify the ingredients and purpose of the cleaner. You’ll also need a 2-cup measuring cup, or several smaller ones, and a set of measuring spoons. Depending on what you’re making you also need a box of baking soda, box of borax, bottle of white vinegar, ammonia and water. Optional is the use of essential oils like lemon, lavender and tea tree that can cut the strong smell of vinegar and help your home smell nicer or add disinfecting power. Keep in mind that you don’t have to change all of your cleaners at one time. It’s best to spread out the cost and test several recipes to see which work best for you. Here are a few basic recipes to get you started.

• All-purpose cleaner: Pour a half cup of white distilled vinegar and a fourth of a cup of baking soda or two teaspoons of borax into a spray bottle. Optional, add one tablespoon of Earth-friendly dish soap, and/or 20 to 30 drops of essential oil. Fill the rest of the bottle with water almost to the very top. Add sprayer, close tightly, and shake well to mix.

• Stain remover: Pour 2/3 cup of clear liquid dishwashing detergent, 2/3 cup of ammonia, six tablespoons of baking soda, and two cups of warm water into a spray bottle. Use this mix to clean the kitchen counter, sinks and showers.

• Window cleaner: Pour a fourth of a teaspoon of liquid detergent, three tablespoons of vinegar and two cups of water into a spray bottle. Add sprayer, close tightly, and shake well to mix.

• Creamy soft scrub: This recipe is perfect for cleaning the bathtub, sink, counters and even the stove. The soft scrub should be made when you need it. You’ll need a bowl, preferably glass, to mix the ingredients and a sponge. Pour about a half of a cup of baking soda into a bowl and add enough liquid dish soap or other liquid detergent, about four teaspoons, to make a texture-like frosting. Optional, add about five drops of essential oil like tea tree, rosemary or lavender. Scoop the scrub onto a sponge and clean the surface. If it’s too hard to clean, spray the area first with vinegar and let it soak and try again.

As with all cleaners, you should keep these out of the reach of children and store the bottles in a cool, dry place. If the product gets in your eyes, rinse thoroughly with water and contact your doctor if irritation persists. If the product is accidentally swallowed, especially if it contains borax, drink a glass of milk or water and contact your physician for advice. Unlike commercial cleaners, with the green cleaners you’ll be able to tell her what exactly was consumed. When making your label you may want to include the date it was made, the product name, ingredients list and instructions for what to do in case of an emergency as described above.


Liz Swafford is the recycling and education program coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. Call her at (706) 278-5001 or email lswafford@dwswa.org.

Text Only
  • Tax holiday weekend is perfect time to shop

    August means children across the state are headed back to school, and for parents that means it’s time to buy new shoes and clothes for children who have outgrown their old ones. It means it’s time to buy new school supplies, and it may even mean it’s time to get a child a new computer to do their school work.

    July 30, 2014

  • "We’ve had a great ride"

    For 60 years, the Green Spot has been a part of Dalton. It survived long after most other locally owned grocery stores in the area had folded to competition from big chain grocery stores and to big box super stores.

    July 29, 2014

  • Charles Oliver: Traveler from a district in Columbia?

    Jim Gray was traveling out of Orlando International Airport when a Transportation Security Administration officer tried to stop him from boarding his plane.

    July 29, 2014

  • Letter: Children are not the enemy

    We recently read somewhere that our country is at war, not with another nation but with one another.

    July 29, 2014

  • Ensuring the joy of reading

    They’re little, they’re libraries, and best of all, they’re free.

    July 28, 2014

  • Move carefully, but soon

    No one intended for it to happen. No one had any bad motives.
    But during a period of 40 years or more, quite a few people didn’t do enough planning, didn’t have enough foresight to see what all of the development in Dalton would do.

    July 27, 2014

  • Local school systems must bear costs of federal immigration failure

    No word. No warning. Little help.
    That’s what Dalton Public Schools officials received from the federal government when it dropped 30 Central American students into local classrooms last school year.

    July 26, 2014

  • Sacrifices worth honoring

    Members of the Dalton City Council were recently approached by representatives of the local chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart with a request to declare Dalton a Purple Heart City. Council members indicated they will approve the request.

    July 24, 2014

  • We must do better

    The numbers tell a sad tale.
    Registered voters: 36,843.
    Cards cast: 5,307.
    That means the turnout for Tuesday’s runoffs in Whitfield County was a measly 14.4 percent, according to unofficial results from the Whitfield County elections office.

    July 23, 2014

  • Letter: Control immigration

    Thousands are starting to pour into our country, and things are getting personal. Why would we end up the bad guys if we turn away children who aren’t ours? How does it make us better people to let one man steal from our children and stand by and do nothing?

    July 23, 2014